Body of missing US mountaineer Hilaree Nelson found in Nepal

<span>Photograph: Nick Kalisz/Facebook</span>
Photograph: Nick Kalisz/Facebook

The body of the renowned US big-mountain skier Hilaree Nelson was found on Wednesday morning after she fell down a narrow 5,000ft slope during a trek in the Himalayas two days earlier.

Nelson and her partner, Jim Morrison, had scaled the 26,781ft peak of Manaslu on Monday morning. They reached the summit at 10.42am “in tough conditions”, Morrison wrote in an Instagram post on Wednesday. The pair transitioned from climbing to skiing down to regroup with their sherpa team.

“I skied first, and after a few turns Hilaree followed, and started a small avalanche. She was swept off her feet and carried down a narrow snow slope down the south side (opposite from climbing route) of the mountain over 5,000 [feet],” Morrison wrote. “I did everything I could to locate her, but was unable to go down that face as I hoped to find her alive and live my life with her.

“I spent the last two days searching from the air in a helicopter.”

Morrison wrote that he and a rescue team landed at 22,000ft and found her body on Wednesday morning.

Nelson, 49, who has two children, is one of the highest-profile mountaineers, with a career spanning two decades. North Face described her as “the most prolific ski mountaineer of her generation” on its website.

In 2012, she became the first woman to climb both the summit of Everest and the peak of adjacent mountain Lhotse within 24 hours.

In 2018, the resident of Telluride, Colorado, was awarded the National Geographic Adventurer of the Year award after making the first ski down Lhotse that year.

“There are no words to describe the love for this woman, my life partner, my lover, my best friend, and my mountain partner,” Morrison wrote. “My loss is indescribable and I am focused on her children and their steps forward.”

Friends of Nelson told National Geographic that in addition to being an accomplished athlete, Nelson was known for her grit and grace in the face of challenges.

“She had heroic strengths – not only in mountains, but in her community, and her family,” climber and videographer Renan Ozturk, a friend of Nelson’s, told National Geographic. “The resilience she had to be out of her comfort zone and laugh in the face of dire situations speaks to her positivity.”

Conditions on Manaslu were harsh in the days before Nelson and Morrison ascended to the mountain’s peak. On Instagram last week, Nelson expressed doubt that they would end up making it to the summit as heavy rain and humidity was making climbing difficult.

“I haven’t felt as sure-footed on Manaslu as I have on past adventures into the thin atmosphere of the high Himalaya,” she wrote. “These past weeks have tested my resilience in new ways.”

Also on Monday, a separate avalanche in a lower portion of the mountain killed one climber and injured a dozen others.

Manaslu, the eighth-tallest mountain in the world, has seen a busy climbing season in its high peaks. The Nepali government issued 404 climbing permits for the fall so far, up from 150 last year, according to Outside Magazine. Although the mountain is considered one of the easier high peaks to climb, its massive avalanches have proved deadly: in 2012, an avalanche killed eight climbers.